KIROV - Russian protest leader Alexei Navalny was sentenced to five years in jail for theft and embezzlement on Thursday.

The Kirov City Court found the anti-corruption campaigner guilty of defrauding about $500,000 worth of lumber from a state-run company, reports Russia's Kommersant.

The tough sentence did not come as a surprise for the 37-year-old activist, who described the trial as "a farce".

Navalny is one of Vladimir Putin's most outspoken critics. Three months ago, he depicted the Russian President as a foe of democracy, reports CNN 

Alexei Navalny - Photo: Alexey Yushenkov

A few minutes before he was handcuffed during the trial and led away, he urged his supporters to continue his struggle, tweeting : "Don't sit around doing nothing", reports the BBC.

Alexei Navalny registered as a candidate in Moscow mayoral race, but if his conviction stands, the opposition blogger will not be able to run for public office.